High Tech High said to drive out Hispanics

Hispanic students are leaving one of the county’s charter schools at alarming rates due to discriminatory policies, according to a critical report by the County Office ofEducation.

The report, to be presented to the County Board of Education today, highlights problems with English-language learners in particular. Of the 38 students to leave High Tech High Bayshore for academic reasons in the past two semesters, 31, or 81 percent, were Hispanic, according to county Office of Education Assistant Superintendent Tom Fitzpatrick. The school estimates that about 50 percent of its student body, currently 190 students, is Hispanic.

“One could conclude, based on the previously cited figures, that High Tech High Bayshore is, in effect, discriminatory in its program, and admission policy (in this case re-admission policy), based not on intention but on impact of its policies,” Fitzpatrick wrote in a report to county Board of Education members.

The board, which currently holds the school’s charter, will vote on whether to forward the report, along with two previous critical reports, to the state, which will take over the school’s charter beginning July 1, said county Superintendent of Schools Jean Holbrook.

School Director Joe Feldman disputed the numbers, pointing out that the school changed names from San Carlos High, along with much of its staff, last July and has only operated under the current name for one semester. Providing his own numbers, Feldman said that of the 61 students identified as “at risk” for retention in November 2005, 43 were Hispanic. Of those, 25 chose to stay at the school and 18 left, he said.

“Certainly, Latinos make up a higher proportion of the “at risk” population – which is true county-, state- and nationwide — and that is something we are focusing on,” Feldman said.

As a result of the report, High Tech High, a statewide organization based in San Diego, plans to make more explicit in the school’s handbook its policy requiring student to earn a “C” grade or above in all classes, or take summer classes or repeat the grade, Feldman said.

Holbrook said she would like to see the school begin to follow all state-mandated testing to identify English-learner students in a timely and accurate manner and provide daily English language class.

“I think we have to make sure that students that are Latino or [English- learner] students are being appropriately supported at the school,” she said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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